Chicago is home to an array of wonderful museums, full of amazing artwork. But if you want to tap into a vibrant, rewarding, and possibly unpredictable art experience, a trip to one of the city’s many gallery districts is the way to go. I braved the potential bad luck of Friday the 13th to explore some of the latest spring openings.
My first stop was Kasia Kay Art Projects, located in the West Loop. It’s a small space, but it was packed to capacity when I got there, full of people drawn by the allure of Hebru Brantley. His work is bold and colorful, utilizing whimsical characters to explore the experience of urban life. The man himself is also quite charming. I picked up a few friends there, and we went in search of more art.
Our next stop ended up being Packer Schopf. Despite their inherent flashiness, I enjoyed Matthew Cox’s embroidered X rays, featuring Eastern gods and pop culture icons like David Bowie (recently featured on the cover of the Chicago Reader). The real draw was downstairs though, where Brett Eberhardt’s collection of paintings, featuring scenes of softly colored domestic spaces and objects, drew admiration from our entire group.
From there we hit the Chicago Artists Coalition space. Amanda Greive’s vibrant, highly finished still lifes provided a counterpoint to Eberhardt’s work. The highlight for me at this space was “It’s Getting Hot in Here,” a collection of work from husband and wife collaborative duo, Sarah and Joseph Belknap. Joseph regaled us with the tale of stealing a rusted swing from a Cicero playground (and replacing it with a new one), for the piece The leavings of the frozen sea, featuring said swing frozen in a block of “ice.” In a perfect manifestation of the Belknap’s theme of man dominating over nature, a little girl who visited the show took a moment to bounce wildly on a glacier mounted on springs like a playground ride, her stuffed animal clinging desperately to its peak.
Our final destination was Wicker Park (stopping by a Hebru Brantley mural on the way) to check out Jenny Lam’s latest project, I CAN DO THAT. The show allowed speakers of that oft-dreaded phrase to rise to the challenge and step into the artist’s shoes. Materials were provided and works were given labels such as “COPY ME” or “IMPROVE ME,” giving this art-exhibition-turned-on-its-head an Alice in Wonderland feel. The space was packed with people painting, scribbling, and generally enjoying themselves, and the smell of paint was heavy in the air. Unable to resist, we each left a small contribution via pastel, colored pencil, or hot glue gun before heading off into the night.
A night of gallery hopping is almost always filled with dynamic conversations, interesting people, free wine, and amazing (and not so amazing) art. For a calendar of openings and a guide to Chicago’s gallery districts, check out Chicago Gallery News.